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Three ways to turn your kids into book lovers

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As an avid reader myself, I worry sometimes about how to instill that love of reading in my girls. I've been told that they will just naturally pick up on it since I model that behavior but I'm skeptical that that is all it takes. I know too many people who profess that they can't stand reading and with the number of available distractions in today's electronic world, how can a quiet paper bound book compete? 

I stumbled on Jim Trelease's "The Read Aloud Handbook" in a display at a bookstore during one of my browsing dates with Handyman Tim ages ago. That title stuck with me and I finally decided to get a copy from the library last summer. There were some eye-popping statistics in there about just how important reading is for building skills for school and life in general. If ever I was convinced about the importance of this task, it was after reading the first few chapters of that book.

But more importantly, "The Read Aloud Handbook" was invaluable for giving actual advice on getting kids to love reading in a very natural non-pressured way. I've implemented several of the tips and 6 months later, I can definitely say they seem to be working. Here are just three of my favorites:

1. Have books available!: Store baskets of books in every single room of the house, including the bathroom and dining room. Ok, truthfully the bathroom idea skeeved me out, but I did follow this tip and put them in the dining area as well. We are virtually swimming in books of all kinds. There is always something to read an arm's reach away. It isn't something that is contained to a bookshelf in the office or on a shelf in the living room, they are scattered in (neat) little piles on every table. I catch the girls browsing through pages all the time.

2. No television during meal times: This is a rule we have always strictly followed in our home. But with the amount of time that Tim is gone traveling, dinner table discussions can definitely fade when it is just me and a 4 year old. By following rule number 1 above, I can just reach over and grab a book and read to the girls while they eat! Captive audience, wholesome entertainment. This has been by far my favorite tip from the handbook.

3. Don't shy away from reading more advanced materials: Maybe it makes me a horrible mother to admit this, but there are just so many rounds of Curious George I can handle. The Peanut may be only 4 years old but we have started to read chapter books rather than picture books during our reading sessions together. Not all the time, and Curious George still appears plenty, but the Peanut has definitely been capable of reading Winnie the Pooh (the classic version) and a couple Roald Dahl selections (my Favorites!!)

Some of the language may be over her head, she may not grasp the entire plot, but I was pleasantly surprised at just how much she was hanging on to even when it took us a couple weeks to finish the story. We chat after each chapter and I ask her questions about what just happened and what she thinks might come next. We refresh our memories before starting again. It has been an amazing experience being able to share a little more advanced story with her and holds my attention far better. If the reading session is fun for mommy too, you're much more likely to have more sessions!

I highly recommend getting a hold of a copy of Jim Trelease's book. The second half is a lengthy digest of reading suggestions for different ages and different interests. I came away very inspired with reading ideas I may have held off on longer than necessary. 

How about you? Do you have little book worms in your home? How did you help that process along? Any tips or book suggestions you'd like to share?

MB - I worry about this with my babes. I LOVE to read and that’s ALL I want to do on vacations and when I have a moment to myself – but my baby daddy considers it a “good year” if he’s read ONE. Ouch. Love the idea of books in every room – we have PILES in H’s room alone that could easily be moved. Jim T’s book is talked about endlessly in education classes and when I got my masters it was mentioned many times…great book!

Liz Czukas - I am dedicated to making my Peanut a reader, too. We read 2 picture books or 2 chapters from an early reader chapter book every night. We also have a few simple chapter books on audio for the car (great for when my chatterbox gets stuck in a particularly chatty loop.) Now that he can write his own name, we got him a library card and he LOVES being in charge if his stack at the self-checkout. The library has been a boon to us, since he’s a pretty voracious reader.
One thing I would recommend is keeping a list of all the books you read to them each year. It brought out both of our competitive sides; we just HAD to try 100 new books last year. Of course the old favorites got sprinkled in liberally, but we did it. We read 105 new books last year. This year, we’re already on our way to breaking that record, with 31 new books under our belts so far. He loves watching his list grow.
If you’ve got a little person who seems to prefer cartoons to books, I’d also recommend looking for the books so many kid shows are based on. The HBO series Harold and the Purple Crayon was a gateway to all the classic Crockett Johnson books for us. And the Toot and Puddle books are a pure delight if your kids like the TV show.
Great topic, Tiffany, and obviously one that’s dear to my heart. Which reminds me, if you want your kids to think you have magic powers, get Press Here by Henri Tullet. It’s wonderful and simple enough for beginning readers to read aloud to impress their family and friends.
- Liz

kids aprons - my 2 kids loves to hear bedtime stories ages 5 and 2. every night i read them stories but eventually my oldest boy starting to volunteer to read the story for her little sisi. reading is really a great bonding with learning to my kids…
just share to them what you love to do that’s all!
bye the way great books!

Lisa - I stop by your blog every once in a while and thought I would share the other end of the story. I too was quite inspired by the Read Aloud Handbook. That was almost 20 years ago. My oldest is a senior and my second oldest is a junior in high school. I read aloud to them until they were in sixth grade. (After that I couldn’t keep up with their schedules) We started with easy books when they were young. When my daughter was 4 they were already delving into Charlotte’s Web and Narnia with me. When they were in kindergarten and first grade we read the entire Magic Tree House series. We savored all the Harry Potter books together and I have great memories of reading time every night. My kids have always scored VERY high scores in reading and reading comprehension and I know their read aloud time is largely responsible for this. Santa Claus always gave them a special book every Christmas. Keep reading and you’ll have wonderful memories of this special time with your kids…it will really pay off!!

Jana - Another older mom chiming in… My kids are 21 and 19, and both in college!
There is a very short list of books (other than the Bible) that have actually changed the way I live my life, and Jim Trelease’s book is one of them. Up until my kids were around 8 or 9 years old, they were limited to one and a half hours of “screen time” a day. Screen time included TV shows, DVDs, video games and computer entertainment.
When they were little, I read to them often. With just one, I pretty much never turned down a request to sit down and read. With the second, that got a lot harder.
During all of their grade school years, our entire family spent most of Sunday afternoon in Barnes and Noble, just hanging out and reading whatever. (I did keep an eye on what my kids were picking up, and on rare occasions, nixed their picks.)
Both my kids are big readers, good students, and very creative. I think that less time on TV left them more time and energy to expand their imaginations.
I wonder if you’ve heard of this poem; there’s just one line I remember…
“Richer than me you can never be;
I had a mother who read to me.”
(By the way, someday [I hope] I get to read to grandkids!) :D

Meg - Another Amazing book on the benefits of and tips Di reading to kids is reading magic by award winning australian children’s author mem fox. She also has an amazing website. http://www.memfox.net/reading-magic-intro.

Love and Lollipops - I only just found your blog and am thrilled I have. I absolutely love the picture in this post :) . About reading – I am going to go and source Jim’s book – it sounds amazing. I will be honest and say that I am always saddened to say goodbye to the really “easy”, simplistic children’s books in my home and I try to extend their shelf life for as long as possible. I know it’s also the illustrations that add to my love of young children’s literature. I tend to read these stories with an animated voice (or I add different voices), or I simply read the story in a different way (Rhythm, tone etc). And, I add my thoughts about the book to extend the children’s thinking about the book. In that way a “younger” book seems to keep even my older audience interested. Anyway just my two cents worth. Thanks again for this nice post. Georgia :)

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